Here you'll find several tips, tweaks and tutorials on matters I find interesting (and possibly you will too) regarding the web and other techy stuff. Look around and you'll surely find something that you find useful.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

13 Absolutely Essential Free Windows Apps!

So you've just made a fresh Windows installation and now you've got to install all of your utilities on the system. Well, with the huge variety of apps available on the internet these days it's difficult to make a well calculated choice. Then there also is the issue about free/trial version apps and large/bloated softwares that roam the internet. I'll try and help you out here by mentioning the apps that I install on any system that I work on as soon as I make any fresh Windows installation.
The best part about these apps is that they're all free and most of them are absolutely light-weight.

The utility of these apps range from security and system-maintenance to apps that enable you to work faster and smarter on your PC, enabling you to get the most juice out of your Windows box.

So let's go!

1. Ccleaner
Ccleaner is one software I absolutely always install right after I've installed Windows on any machine. It's a system-maintenance software and it provides you with options like registry-cleaning and it also does a neat job of clearing your internet history and other redundant files thus saving space on your disk and optimizing your PC.
It comes along with a start-up manager, an un-installation tool and a host of other neat features. Absolutely essential!

2. Chrome/Firefox defines Internet Explorer as "An efficient tool which lets you browse to and download Firefox"! IE has always had plenty of pitfalls and I've been a Firefox loyalist most of my life until Chrome came along. However, between the two, it may just be a matter of your choice. Both these free browsers offer excellent features like tabbed browsing, better security, private browsing, extensions and gazillions of other goodies. Do yourself a favor and dump IE for good.
PS: Internet Explorer 8 has been a major improvement on it's earlier versions. But to hell with it! I'm a Google fanboy, so Chrome ftw!!

3. VLC
VLC, your one stop shop for all your video playback requirements. No hassles with downloading codecs or different players for different file formats. It's free. It's light-weight. It's an absolute must on any PC.

4. Avira
Avira/AVG/Avast. Either of these free anti viruses should do good. However, I've been using Avira for the past couple of years and have never had any major virus problems on my PC at all.
All you've got to do is keep updating your virus definitions, run regular scans and you can be rest assured of a virus-free PC.

5. Power ISO
For all of my burning/virtual CD requirements, I use Power ISO. It provides with easy mounting of images to multiple virtual drives and also serves as an efficient CD burner for all your regular needs. You'll find no need for any additional bloat-ware in Nero or any other CD burning tool.

6. SUPER (media converter)
Truly living up to it's name, this free media converter converts absolutely any file format to any desired format under the sun in three easy steps! Convert images, audio files and even full length movie videos to any format you need using this superb bit of software.

7. Foxit PDF reader
I'm sure you must've been frustrated at times waiting for your default PDF reader, Adobe Acrobat, to fire up whenever you tried opening a pdf file. Well here's Foxit PDF reader to your rescue! This free software is absolutely light-weight and comes bundled with a wide array of essential features for all your ebook reading requirements.
A special mention to Sumatra PDF reader that comes a close second in this category which is another great adobe-acrobat-alternative.

8. WinRAR
Zip, Rar, 7z, .part, .cab. Throw anything at it and this neat software will extract the files in a jiffy. It also provides for efficient archiving allowing you to split large files into volumes or even password protected archives.

9. Notepad++
Notepad++ is an excellent alternative to the featureless default Notepad that comes with Windows. It is freeware, light and comes bundled with tons of features like macro recording, code expansion/highlighting, tabbed windows etc. With Notepad++ installed on your system, you'll never find the need for any additional code-editor tools like Edit++ or Komodo.

10. Defraggler
Defraggler is another system maintenance tool from the makers of Ccleaner. Basically, it defrags your HDDs just like Windows' Disk Defragmenter does. However it provides a way simpler UI and allows you to analyze each disk to check for the amount of degragmentation etc.
Run this app once every month or so and your machine should be running smooth as always.

11. Everything
"Everything" is an administrative tool that locates files and folders by filename instantly for Windows. Unlike Windows search "Everything" initially displays every file and folder on your computer (hence the name "Everything").
You type in a search filter to limit what files and folders are displayed.

12. Pidgin
Pidgin is a free chat program that allows you to login to Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Gtalk and several other chat networks simultaneously. You no longer will have to download Yahoo Messenger, Gtalk or any other separate client for each of your chatting accounts. All your contacts appear in the single Pidgin window and you can chat with all your contacts via different accounts simultaneously.
PS: Meebo is an online web application that does just the same and can be using right inside your browser without even downloading or installing any application at all!

Other honorary mentions.
Following are some more applications that I usually install on my comp which I think are worth a mention here if not in the top-13 list.

Panda USB Vaccine
It's a free anti-malware tool that prevents computers from being infected by autorun.inf based viruses. It automatically replaces the autorun file on your pen-drive with a dummy one so as to avoid the infection onto your PC. And it does this as soon as any disk is attached to your USB ports! Very useful!

If you download stuff from the internet using torrents, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't be using utorrent. Enough said.

Spybot Search & Destroy
Sypbot S&D is an anti-spyware/malware tool that does an excellent job of searching and destroying any spyware or malware on your computer.

I know there are several softwares out there on the net which are way more effective at managing your music than iTunes is. But then, iTunes syncs without any hassles with my iPods and also organizes the music on my desktop pretty easily.
Besides, I've recently installed Windows 7 on my computer and the Windows Media Player 12 that comes bundled with it is simply awesome. A huge makeover from it's previous versions and it integrates with 7 really very well.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Add network activity indicator to Windows 7/Vista

The new network activity icon in the system tray for Windows 7/Vista only shows the list of network connections and doesn't work like how it used to in XP.
The 2 tiny monitors, constantly blinking would let us know when our router had crashed or wasn't responding. Also, it would blink whenever there was any network activity on your machine thereby letting you know of the same.
I badly missed this feature in Windows 7 since ever so often some update program would launch itself in the background and start downloading updates without my notice. Atleast if I had those blinking monitors I'd know about the activity.

Anyway, so if you're missing the network activity indicator as much as I do (or even if you don't) try out this ultra-tiny 57kb app!
Simply download from here. Unzip it to any folder and run the NetworkIndicator.exe file.
You should have the 2 blinky computers on your system tray right away!
To have the app load up at startup each time, simply right click the tray-icon, click Settings, and check the box that says 'Load on startup' and you're golden! :)

via DownloadSquad

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Watch TV (especially the Champions League matches that you miss) on your computer using Sopcast!

So I wanted to watch Arsenal's Champion's League match against Standard Liege yesterday however Zee Sports and Ten Sports (who usually telecast the CL matches where I live) were telecasting other matches and the Arsenal match was scheduled for a late-telecast.
And late-telecasts aren't fun, I wanted it live! And live I watched it, on my computer using live-streaming of the match via SopCast.

If you're a football fan, you may have watched matches online inside your browser itself using links like etc. However, the problem with these links is that as the number of viewers increase, the quality of the live-stream-video decreases, i.e. it will start stuttering and lagging. Eventually the link may shut down all together due to an overload of viewers on the same link!

P2PTV (peer-to-peer-television) however allows several users to watch the same link without any such problem! Infact, with an increase in the number of users, usually the live-streaming gets smoother!
And to use P2PTV you could use a software like SopCast!

Sopcast is P2PTV! It works very much like how torrents do. While streaming a channel, you download a bit of the video and at the same time you upload it so that others can stream the same on their computer and thus the availability of that live-stream is increased!

Now that you know what SopCast and P2PTV is, lets get to HOW do we use it to enjoy Champions League football!

First, download SopCast from here and unzip the contents to a directory of your choice.
Run the SopCast setup (.exe file) and install it to your computer.

Now fire up SopCast and check the radio button that says: Login as anonymous.
Also check the checkbox 'Autologin on this computer' so that you don't have to perform this step every time.

Now click the 'Live Channels' tab and you can view a list of channels that are currently available for viewing categorized according to 'Sports', 'News', 'Education' etc.

The CL match that you wish to watch may not always be available under the Sports section, so you may have to search for your channel on the net first.

Head over to Live-Football, a site dedicated to posting live-stream links to all football matches around the world!
Click the 'Champions link' to head over to the page listing all of the upcoming CL fixtures.
Now select the match you wish to watch and click the link.
And there you will see a list of channels that are available to be viewed on SopCast! (Note that some of the channels may not work only until kickoff)

Just click the live-stream link that has 'SopCast' written next to it (which means that the particular link is a SopCast channel).
SopCast will automatically start and begin playing the given channel.

Another method is, you acquire the SopCast channel no. and simply enter it into the Address field in Sopcast. For e.g.: "Channel - 30931"

You're done! You should have your match streaming for you within seconds! :)

In case you've got any queries regarding this, leave a comment and I'll get back to you asap!

NOTE: If you are on a limited broadband connection, watching live-streams can account for a lot of bandwidth so take care.
Also, if you are on a slow dialup connection, the video may appear laggy and slow. This is not a problem with SopCast or the channel, it's your internet connection.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Standalone Stack lets you pin stacks to your Windows Taskbar!

If you use RocketDock you probably also use the Stack-docklet for saving docklet-real-estate. And if you don't use the docklet already, maybe you should! Check it out now!

With the awesome Windows 7 toolbar, you may have already gotten rid of your Dock, however you must be missing the stack-docklet that you had earlier.
Well with 'Standalone Stack' from Chris'n'Soft you can have stacks on your taskbar!

Just download Standalone Stack from here. Unzip the files to C:/standalonestack/ and run the standalonestack2.exe file to fire it up!

Now in the left side bar, select 'New Stack'. On the right, enter a name for your stack and enter a Path name'. Which ever folder you point to here, the contents of that folder would appear in your stack. For example, you could create a folder of all your game shortcuts and then have your stack point to that folder. Consequently you get a stack pointing to all your games on your PC just as I've done in the screenshot above.

Now hit the 'Create Stack' button and then the 'Create shortcut on desktop' button.
You will now get a stack icon on your desktop that does just the same task. If you wish to, you may now pin that shortcut to your taskbar and then delete the shortcut.
And you're done! You've got a stack docklet on your task bar now!

Standalone stack works on XP/Vista/7.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Automatic Drive Icons on your Desktop

If you've used ubuntu, you must have noticed that as soon as you enter a flash drive or disc into the machine, you instantly get a helpful little icon on your desktop that points to your newly plugged in drive.

You can have the same functionality on your Windows machines using Desktop Media.
On downloading this tiny app (350kb) just unzip the contents and run the application.
You'll get a tray application and on double clicking it you're presented with a menu with a wide variety of options regarding how you want the app to behave.

You can download Desktop Media from here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Search your desktop real-time using Everything

Of late I've been using Everything a lot to search my desktop for files!

It's a really cool software that indexes all your hard disks (as long as they're in NTFS) and lets you search files instantly.

Instantly meaning; hardly you press a key, it will list all files on your system that contain that keyword. And as you key in more characters, all the relevant search results would get filtered.
That is, you get to search real time!

The software is just 334 kb and it beats the default Windows Search hands down!
A must have on your XP system methinks!

Friday, August 14, 2009

How to use 2 (or more) LAN settings on the same LAN card.

I recently got myself an MTNL Triband connection along with which I also had a local broadband connection.
Now I had just one LAN card and consequently just the one "Local Area Connection" in my network connections.
Each of the 2 had separate IPs, masks and gateways and I had to find a quicker way to switch between the 2 LAN-TCP/IP settings. Manually editing the settings each time is obviously too troublesome.
This little trick is pretty useful also if you're constantly swapping between several connections (maybe home and office) on your laptop.

Google to the rescue it was. Here's a neat trick that uses "netsh", a command-line command to change the tcp/ip settings.
Here's how you do it,

Create a text file and copy the following lines of code into the file.

netsh interface ip set address name="Local Area Connection" source=static addr=IP_ADDRESS mask=SUBNET_MASK
netsh interface ip set address name="Local Area Connection" gateway=DEFAULT_FATEWAY gwmetric=0
netsh interface ip set dns name="Local Area Connection" source=static addr=PREFERRED_DNS
netsh interface ip add dns name="Local Area Connection" addr=ALTERNATE_DNS index=2

Replace the yellow text with the respective details of either one of your connections.
Make sure the name of your LAN connection is same as the one specified in the text file (as in this case it is 'Local Area Connection').

(Make sure that file extensions are not hidden and then) Change the extension from .txt to .bat so that it is saved as a batch file.

Do the same thing once more and this time enter the details of your second connection.

You can name the files whatever you want. For e.g., I named one as MTNL connection.bat and the other as localnet.bat

When you want to swap to another connection, just run the relevant .bat file and you're good to go. If you want to revert to the previous settings, run the other .bat file.

In case you come across any difficulties post away and I'll try my best to help you asap!

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